Archive for February, 2013

Making History at the Livestrong Austin Half Marathon

Posted on February 22, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


I made history on Sunday, February 17, 2013.

Well, maybe not earth-shattering, life-altering, textbook-worthy history, but my history.  I PRed at the Livestrong Austin Half Marathon.

My goal:  Under 2 hours.  My official chip time:  1:56:21.

It was an awesome race, but a much harder course than I remember.  Who put all those hills in the last 3 miles? Can we fire them?

I was–and remain–ecstatic, mentally if not physically.  For 2+ days my body felt like it had been beaten with a stick. My legs hurt, from the bruised tip of my left middle toe all the way up to my lower back. I don’t recall ever feeling like this after a race.

Regardless, I wouldn’t trade Sunday for anything, not even a barrel of Cadbury eggs. Which I LOVE, and which my boyfriend gave me as a post-race gift. (Not a barrel full. Just one. Perfect.)

Concord grapes

Every race is a learning experience. Here is what I learned from the Austin half:

1.      I need more hill training.

2.      A perfectly normal toe going into a half can look like a Concord grape coming out.

3.      Running buddies save the world (or at least your run).

I will write more about running buddies in a future post, but let me just say here that Katie from Houston was a God-send. We ran the first half together to keep each other on pace.  We didn’t talk much after mile 3, and we lost each other somewhere around mile 6, but sharing the beginning of a race with someone else makes or breaks it, in attitude and time.

4.      Gatorade is not my friend.beverages-caution_0

I never drink Gatorade and stopped drinking any sports drink a few years ago. I prefer water, plain and simple.  Most sports drinks contain too much sugar for me, particularly Gatorade, which has always made me nauseous.

Additionally, I learned recently that BVO, a synthetic chemical originally manufactured as a flame retardant, has been an ingredient in many sports drinks and sodas, including Gatorade, for years.  All the more reason for me to avoid it.

However, somewhere around mile 5 I cruise into a water stop, grab what I think is a full cup of water, and down it.  To my dismay, it’s Gatorade.  Almost instantly, I am nauseous.  And, since the BVO news broke, I am more than just a little upset.

For the next 8 miles I am having two simultaneous conversations with myself.  One is a rational discussion laying out all the reasons why I cannot take the time to stop and vomit until after I cross the finish line.  My stomach churns for the remainder of the race as small streams of lemon-lime shoot up the back of my throat.

I never do vomit, even though my stomach will not feel normal until sometime in the late afternoon.

The second conversation has to do with BVO.  Last week I mentioned the importance of mental distractions in seeing me through long runs. Usually, the distraction is music–not a real iPod, but the iPod on continuous loop in my head.  On a particularly good long run recently, Sugar Ray’s “I Just Want to Fly” helped me to.  On a particularly hard long run, Train’s “Calling All Angels” got stuck in the loop.

Sometimes movie scenes replay in my head, a little bit reworked.  Like during my 11 mile This Is Spinal Tap long run.  I envisioned my interview with Rob Reiner, who ran along beside me as we discussed the fact that every other runner might stop at 10, but not me.

ROB:  Why don’t you just make ten faster and make ten be the top number and make that a little faster?

ME:  [pausing and looking down at my legs] These go to 11.

The BVO distraction, unfortunately, was not as fun.  At least, I kept telling myself, if another meteor hits Earth and Austin explodes into a fireball, I’ll be safe.  Me and half the runners.  Austin may burn, but we’re flame retardant.

At least I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

And I got my PR.

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The End in Sight

Posted on February 15, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

girl daydreaming

In a little more than 48 hours I will have PRed the Austin Half Marathon.

It will be cold Sunday morning, somewhere in the mid to upper 30s.  When my alarm goes off I will already be awake, half dreading getting out from under the warm covers so blasted early.

I’ll sit on the living room floor like I always do, cup (or 2) of coffee in hand, and stretch, not necessarily because I need to stretch promptly upon awakening, but because it’s a nice excuse to sprawl out on the floor and half-doze instead of crawling back into bed.

My dogs will look outside at the still dark sky, and then at me like I am crazy, burrow into a cozy nest in the throw on the couch, and go back to sleep. Like they always do.

But this Sunday won’t be like any other running day.  No stalling on this cold morning with endless coffee or straightening up. This day is going to rock.

I have visualized race morning for weeks–waking up and getting ready for the race, driving to Austin, walking to the start line, warming up.  I know what I will eat and when, what my clothing options are for any kind of weather (this is Texas, after all–the thermometer can fluctuate 40+ degrees within hours).  I have reminded myself to press my Garmin’s ON button as soon as I cross the Start line.

I have visualized what my negative split will feel like, particularly the second half, fast and hard to the Finish line.

Most important, I have repeated in my mind’s eye crossing that line. Finishing strong. My best run ever.

Strangely, perhaps, visualization comes so easily for me that it often resembles daydreaming.  Especially on long runs. Maybe my mind needs a distraction in order to let my body alone to do what it will. Or maybe I am simply determined to get the result I want.  Regardless, I have seen the end of this race, over and again, and I know it won’t be good. It will be fabulous.

I can’t wait.

Come to think of it, I haven’t. I’ve seen it.

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The Blank Page

Posted on February 8, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

blank calendar

The page is almost full.  Next Sunday–in 9 days–I will be in Austin well before the sun comes up, running a half marathon, the first I have been able to run since February 2010.  At the end of the day, my last box will be checked.

When I posted my training plan on the side of my refrigerator just before Thanksgiving, the whiteness of the blank boxes and the progression of long-run miles daunted me. For a couple of weeks, I doubted I could actually do it.  Run a half marathon, geez.  What was I thinking? I hadn’t run that far in so long I found it hard to have faith in my ability to do it again.

Not only was the page too white, but there were lots of things that might get in the way of fulfilling my plan. Christmas, New Years, vacation, business trip, work. I had to remind myself that the holidays in particular were why I chose to run this particular half marathon at this particular time, why I chose to start training the week after Thanksgiving.  I chose.

I knew from past experience how closely aligned race training is with project planning. Life planning. You set a goal and a date, break it down into its parts, plant the tasks on a calendar, and check off each task as it’s complete, recording your rate of success. Focusing on the small chunks, one week at a time at most, one day at a time for certain, is what determines success. We only live one day at a time. It’s our responsibility to focus on the moment, perform to the best of our ability, because the moment is all we are guaranteed.

But for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been looking at my plan with a different eye. When I glance at it from across the kitchen, I no longer see an intimidating white page. My plan has almost reached fruition.  The boxes contain times and distances where I followed the plan, or diagonal lines where I didn’t.  I am no longer afraid of this page. Rather, I am proud. I have come so far, and there is visual proof to remind me.

training plan

When I look at my plan, penciled, erased, circled, used, I get excited.  Not only am I so close to reaching my goal, which is thrilling in itself, but I have had the joy (and pain) of reaching a goal every day.  I see the results on paper, certainly, but also in the mirror. I am not the same person who started this plan on November 26.  And I will be a different person again when I cross that finish line on February 17.

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Two Weeks to PR

Posted on February 1, 2013. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Athlete Running Through Finish Line

I did it.  I finished my 10 mile run last Sunday 4:30 faster than my 10 mile run the week before.  Not only am I completely thrilled with the fact that I beat myself, but I am now confident that I will PR at the Austin half in two weeks.

The last time I ran the Austin half, in 2010, I PRed.  My goal was to finish in under 2 hours.  I finished in 2:01:50-something.  I know.  I’ve been trying to block out the disappointment ever since. At least I’ve succeeded in kind of forgetting the tenth of a second part.

This time, I’m sure I can do it.  Running has never felt so good, and I’ve never trained better. This time, there are two major differences.

My attitude.

I didn’t take up running until my early 30s, and it has probably saved my life on more than one occasion. Training for a race–having a goal, a plan, a block of time every day to disappear into and call my own–has sustained me through marital problems and divorce, death, illness, and countless lows that in a previous life would probably have resulted in self-destructive activities.

Running became such an integral part of my identity that for a long time I approached it with a certain rigidity.  If I had a plan I’d follow it, come hell or high water.  But in the past couple of years, I have learned to let go of the plan.  This time around, my plan is tacked on my refrigerator, just as with any past race, but rather than stress about sticking exactly to it, I do what I can when I can. Give it my best, and leave the rest up to God. I’m finding that in running, just like in life, I get a much better outcome when I let go.

My strength.

It’s not that strength training never appealed to me, it’s that it never occurred to me. I was like most women I see at the gym even now:  My idea of a workout was strictly cardio.  Thanks to my sister, I have developed a love of strength training along with the understanding that if I want to run long and hard and fast, I need the musculature to support me.  A strong core holds the body upright and prevents hip, back, and knee injuries.  A strong upper body decreases tension on the spine when I’m slogging my shoulders and head along on those long runs.  And strong legs?  A no-brainer.  I want quads that look like braided bread not because I find them sexy, but because I need to make it up some pretty steep hills.  The stronger I get, the faster I get, and the more I enjoy running.

I’m not worried that I’ve jinxed myself by stating publicly that I believe I will PR in Austin.  Even if I don’t (but I will), I know I will be proud of my run and the fact that I’m there, giving it the best I’ve got.  Isn’t that what life’s all about?

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